14700 Tamiami Trail North, Naples
NORTH NAPLES — Say goodbye to nickel lasagna night, Nadine’s favorite pasta and Krispy Kreme doughnut bread pudding.
Naples Tomato, a popular North Naples restaurant, closed its doors Saturday after the dinner service.
“We gave it our best go, but I think with places like the Mercato it’s going to be impossible for things to work,” said Jack Serfass, the restaurant’s owner. “We had a lot of conversations, but we weren’t able to make it possible.”
The restaurant has been open for about eight years and was featured in a 2006 New York Times travel piece on Naples.
Serfass declined to go into the details that surrounded the decision to close the restaurant, but said the location — 14700 U.S. 41 N, just south of the Lee County border — was no longer a viable one.
“It is sudden,” he said. “I can’t really get in to the details, but if we felt we could make it continue, we would.”
Serfass said restaurant management was informed of the closure Monday night by phone, while other employees — like bartenders and servers — were informed Tuesday morning through a post on an employee message board.
Naples Tomato hostess Brianna King said she started hearing rumors of the closure Monday night as she got ready for work. She called her manager who said the restaurant was closed and there were concerns about whether employees would be paid.
Employees, King said, should have been paid Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t say (we’re) panicking, it’s more a question of now what do we do,” King said. “Where do we go from here? It’s just a lot of we don’t know.”
Serfass said it was “definitely not (Naples Tomato’s) intention” to leave employees in the lurch. The company has a team working to liquidate its assets so it could pay employees, vendors and creditors.
“We’re doing what we can,” Serfass said.
The restaurant sent out a blast to about 15,000 customers on the company’s email list shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Other customers learned of the closure when they stopped by the restaurant for lunch. Instead of finding a bustling restaurant, customers were met with closed doors and a mostly empty space.
No sign was on the door, wine bottles were strewed across the bar and all of the furniture — from tables and chairs to plush couches and coffee tables — had been removed.
“We’re shocked,” said Naples resident John Barlas. “We got the impression they were renovating.”
Serfass said while the restaurant is “closed for good at that location,” he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of reopening at another location. Naples Tomato still has a franchise company — the first franchise was awarded in 2010 in Connecticut — and all of the recipes and trademarks are in a holding company. Those components, Serfass said, will make it easier to open a new restaurant if the opportunity arose.
In its May issue, Gulfshore Life magazine readers voted Naples Tomato as Collier County’s top spot for Italian fare and brunch, and also recognized its wine list as the best in town.
King said she didn’t know what the future holds for the restaurant, but is hoping things work out for the former employees.
“I don’t know, they might reopen, they might move,” she said. “I honestly don’t know. I hope I get paid.”